Platform fragmentation

A tale of two devices

A few years ago I developed a mobile phone game called Field of Play. Written for Java ME (mobile edition) it was distributed from a web site and may not have been downloaded a single time. I don’t know.

The experience of developing in Java for phones was bad enough that I swore off the platform and I’ve never done another mobile java project. I don’t remember the process to install a java application on a mobile phone from a web site. It’s possible, but it’s not friendly.

It may be fortunate the game wasn’t more easily accessible, because it probably wouldn’t have run on 90% of devices. Why not? Basicaly a lack of testing devices. I had a Sony Ericsson something something. And that’s it.

I’ve just spent 2 days bug hunting in the Picklets app. Some part of that time was tracking down issues relating to API differences between iOS 3.1 and iOS 4.

I have two devices to test the Picklets app on; a first-gen iPod touch running 3.1.3, and an iPhone 3GS running 4.2.1. If I didn’t have the 1st gen touch and only tested on the iPhone, I would have delivered an app to the iTunes App Store an app that crashes on older hardware. Or perhaps had the app rejected by the review process (does this happen? Does Apple review on old hardware? old iOS versions?).

And that’s only two hardware revisions. This site provides information on over 1000 devices running some flavour of J2ME. I tested Field of Play on one out of the thousand. I can’t find a figure for Android devices. But it’s dozens, right? How many of them do I need to own? How long will it take me to do QA across all the devices I can get my hands on?

I’d love to put picklets onto the Android platform at some point. It’s obviously going to be a big audience. But. Even if there was a functional marketplace, the idea of developing for Android puts the fear in me.

The only way I can see it happening is to open source a Java-based Picklets app and then attempt to encourage and coordinate collective development, bazaar-style action to support a range of Android devices. Which is fine for Android, because that’s what the community expects.

Where does that leave Windows Phone 7? All the problems of the Android platform and none of the open source strategies for dealing with it. Probably big in enterprise.

The Picklets cathedral is going quite well. Minimum viable product coming soon.

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